The Taliban Returns to Atrocities: Public Executions & Torture

Two men in Afghanistan were forced to wear a full-length hijab traditionally worn by Afghan women as a form of public “humiliation,” amidst the Taliban’s growing suppression of human rights and implementation of more brutal executions and public punishments after seizing power more than a year ago.

The two men were accused by a Taliban court of petty theft and were sentenced to wear the chador, a full-length black hijab, to humiliate them as punishment.

Video footage posted by Afghanistan International showed the two men dressed in chador standing on a platform high enough for every passerby to notice them.

For some observers, the punishment may seem ridiculous. But for Huda Khamoosh, an Afghan women's rights activist who had to flee the country in 2021 after the Taliban took control, the punishment was meant to tell the public that the men were weak and spineless.

In the eyes of the Taliban, women are a symbol of weakness, inadequacy, and powerlessness. Women are only there to bear children and cook for their husbands.” Khamoosh explained. “Therefore, it is normal that wearing women's clothes is an unspeakable humiliation for a man. They want to say that these men are weak and spineless and do not deserve to be called men: they are women.

Khamoosh also pointed out an irony concerning the punishment carried out against the men and how the Taliban viewed women when she mentioned that Taliban suicide bombers would wear the chador to blend themselves in public before blowing themselves up, especially after the Taliban lost power in 2001 and before the organization seized power again 20 years later.

The Taliban’s tactics are reminiscent of their first stint in power when they took control of the country in 1996 until a US-led operation overthrew the organization in 2001.

Although the Taliban’s torture, executions, and punishments were limited to areas they controlled while the US-backed Islamic Republic still existed, the organization reverted to its true nature despite initial promises to respect human rights after taking power.

Since the US withdrew from Afghanistan in 2021, the Taliban has implemented a series of measures to limit women’s role in public life. They banned women from gyms, bathhouses, schools, universities, and even seeing doctors.

Afghan Witness documented at least 36 cases of public punishments carried out upon orders by Taliban courts between October 2022 and March 2023, with an estimated number of more than 300 victims.

In a public statement released last March, human rights organization Amnesty International called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to tackle the worsening human rights situation in Afghanistan.

Since they took control of the country in August 2021, the Taliban have violated women’s and girls’ rights to education, work, and free movement; decimated the system of protection and support for those fleeing domestic violence; detained women and girls for minor violations of discriminatory rules; and contributed to a surge in the rates of child, early and forced marriage in Afghanistan,” the statement said.

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